Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thank you to unions

     Now, I do not personally work in a union shop, as what I do is office work. But I do know that, absent unions, all workers would be looking at no holidays, no vacation, you get sick you're out of a job, no job safety, working 89+ hours a week for $2/week, and so on. Union workers fought hard for things we take for granted today. And if unions were ever to be disabled, those rights would go away very quickly. Some people think that unions and collective bargaining are not needed any more. That is simply not true. Union and collective bargaining will be needed until such as all workers can feel safe in walking out on a job should they be treated unfairly. That is, as long as walking out on a job carries the likelihood of starvation and homelessness, unions will be needed. Because in individual bargaining the boss basically has the worker over a barrel.


Whateverman said...

And if unions were ever to be disabled, those rights would go away very quickly

I don't see how you can say this with any more authority than "it's my opinion". However, I'd be interested to know why you think this is true.

I'm personally skeptical of the idea (ie. absent unions, American workers would see a rollback of their 'rights'). To be sure, there might be companies who'd push the boundaries, but there are always "outliers" on a bell curve. You were speaking of American workers in general, however, and I think there's a good case to be made that these rights aren't going away (completely) any time soon.

One point rests on the fact that both union and non-union workers enjoy these benefits. They're SOP. There might be an erosion of those benefits during hard times, but it would take something drastic to get rid of them completely, or to have the cuts be permanent.

Capitalism means competition, and that applies both to the employee AND the employer. In labor shortages, companies will attract workers with benefits and pay.

Additionally, federal law mandates paid time off in some situations. Holidays, maternity, etc.

I think the situation is much too complex to conclude "no unions = screwed workers".

Pvblivs said...

     Well, my "absent unions" was on the order of "if unions had never existed." But I do think that rights would go away quickly without them.
     Currently, both corporations and unions endorse candidates, finance campaighns and send lobbyists to Washington. There has been a push to block unions from being able to do so. Let's face it. Money talks. If the unions went away, all Congress would hear about the legal protections is that they are "too expensive and pointless anyway." And, with automation the way it is, if we had such long work weeks, labor shortages would be gone forever.

Whateverman said...

As they stand today, I dislike unions in general. I think they wield too much political power, and they probably contribute to the high cost of producing goods in the US. Even if their continued existence provides a service to the worker, I suspect they do more harm than not.

But I readily concede that they DID serve a purpose in the past, and greatly improved working conditions for the average employee. If unions had never existed, employment in America would have been (and still might be) an unpleasant thing.

I've had plenty of jobs, some of which were in union shops, but most were not. I *think* that gives me enough perspective to form an objective opinion. If unions were to disappear today (*poof*), I'm fairly confident it wouldn't affect me directly. It might affect people who do unionized work, though; if so, I don't necessarily think the changes would all be bad.

Certainly, wages would drop and benefits would erode. But the thing is that there are manufacturing jobs that aren't unionized. If previous union workers lost benefits, they'd gravitate toward non-union shops, which would force the previous employers to reinstate some of those benefits.

Meh, I'm doing little more than hypothesizing myself...